457 visas: Labour market testing international trade obligation exemptions consolidated

For any nomination application for a Subclass 457 – Temporary Work (Skilled) visa, sponsors should always consider whether labour market testing (LMT) requirements have been met. LMT is defined as ‘testing of the Australian labour market to demonstrate whether a suitably qualified and experienced Australian citizen or Australian permanent resident is readily available to fill the position.’

There are currently three exemptions to LMT: when the occupation nominated is highly skilled and not protected, when a sponsor is exempt due to a major disaster (this has never been granted), and when international trade obligations apply. Reforms due in March 2018 suggest only international trade obligation exemptions will remain.

The legislative framework has in the meantime consolidated the three instruments previously listing existing trade obligation exemptions into one new instrument. This came into force after an amended Singapore-Australia Free Trade Agreement was ratified last Friday, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and as announced by the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment.

Australia has and continues to negotiate and enter into bilateral free-trade agreements with suitable nations. Currently, Australia has bilateral agreements with: New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand, Chile, Malaysia, South Korea, Japan, and China. For LMT purposes, this is in addition to the World Trade Organization’s Marrakesh Protocol (Annex 1B) to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT).

Unlike the repealed instruments, however, there are no specific details for each trade agreement. Previously, for example, international trade exemptions under the GATT agreement were only available for: executives and senior managers as intra-corporate transferees, independent executives, and specialists who have been nominated following two years full-time employment in Australia with the same nominating employer. Sponsors whose nominees did not meet these requirements, and were not exempt otherwise must have undertaken LMT within the required 12-month period.

Singaporean have also received an additional benefit as part of closer ties to Australia with the availability of a six-year, multiple entry Visitor visa under the Tourist or Business Visitor streams according to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection. This will allow a visa holder to remain in Australia up to three months on each arrival. Applicants wishing to apply can only do so through the Australian Visa Application Centre in Singapore.